VIDEO: How to Read Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

In this video, Glenn Watt walks you through reading the style of tablature he creates for 3-string cigar box guitars. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of tablature and want to get started playing the songs in our CBG tablature library here at, this video is for you!

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20 thoughts on “VIDEO: How to Read Cigar Box Guitar Tablature”

  1. Great site, really enjoy learning to play these songs. I have a tab question that I have not been able to find an answer to. What it the small circle that appears numerous times in the tablature for the Boogie in G, starting when we are instructed to strum on the thring string open via the large cirlce on ther bottom G there is a little circle at the same time on the top G. Then it appears again at the beginning of the 6th bar and then again at the beginning of the 7th bar. I cant “crack the code” and I have not seen it discussed anywhere

  2. Thank you for The Star Spangled Banner – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature.

    My 3-string is a Hinkler – Electric Blues 3-String Cigar Box Electric Guitar.
    Hoping to learn this as a “surprise”.
    My questions from the Tablature.
    How do you play an 0-7-9, 11-12-14, 6-7-9, 14-11-11 and 4-5-7 with my glass slide?
    Thank you for your help.

  3. Hello Jack! We understand the confusion, but that is just how guitar tablature has always worked. The lowest-pitched strings are on the bottom, and go from low to high as you go up the tab lines. Standard musical notation also goes from low to high in this way, which likely explains why tablature does. We didn’t want to make our cigar box guitar tablature be “upside-down” compared to all of the other guitar tab in the world. It is just one of those things you have to learn/get used to, and learning it this way will be better in the long run should you ever want to try to read tab for other instruments.

  4. I was shown to string my three string with low G on top D center and high G on the bottom ( I am Right handed)……I assume it’s the same for Left handed players…….This lesson is a bit confusing in that the top string in the diagram is the bottom string on the guitar…..Is there a reason for this ? I find it counter intuitive…..or simply confusing……

    Jack T.

  5. Good Morning Mal,

    Thanks for the shoutout! We’re glad that you can find some use out of the videos and tabs that we post.

    We can certainly take a crack at tabbing that song out. We’ll post it here if we’re able to suss it out.

    Have a great day!

  6. Hi I am a 76 year old guy from the UK your.lessons realy help guys like me.I was wondering if it would be possible for you to tab finger style for John Denver’s Sunshine on My Shoulder .It always reminds my of my son

  7. Not always. Basic tablature doesn’t have a way to notate rhythm or picking style. Finding a picking rhythm for each song is partly a matter of personal taste, partly a matter of how you have heard the song done previously.

  8. Yes, the bottom line of the tablature corresponds the top string when you are holding the guitar. This is the standard for conventional guitar tablature.

  9. I am confused. Is the bottom line the top string? If so does it make more sense that the bottom line should be the bottom string.

  10. In all of these tabs are all of the strings always played with the thumb picking or strumming down?

  11. Glenn,
    Thank you for the lesson. Would you please provide the Tabs for House of the Rising Son?
    Thank you

  12. That is how guitar tablature is always presented, whether for 3-string or 6-string. The highest-pitched string is the top line, and the lowest-pitched is the bottom line.

  13. Just got into CBG’s and found your site, wow what a wealth of knowledge.
    Why, in the diagram, is the top line, the bottom string of the guitar and then the bottom line the top string? That’s a little confusing.

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the three lines of the diagram represent the three strings of the guitar?


  14. Hey thanks for this and the other Tab songs, fantastic !! This is so good, I am just learning and this really helps. Any chance when your doing new song tabs that you could consider doing some Rolling Stones songs as many are in Open G tuning, Brown Sugar, Start Me Up etc.

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